Hydrofracking debate continues with look at potentially contaminated water

Pennsylvania dairy farmers Carolyn Knapp and Carol French think their problems with hydrofracking boil down to the water. They believe the water is causing their family's health problems.

On a bad day, Carol's water is murky and filled with sand. When visiting Carol's farm on November 12th, her tap water was clearer, but still not ideal. The water was filled with bubbles and had a gel-like consistency. Seeing the water begged the question: "Can you put a price on clean water?"

Neil Vitale is an organic dairy farmer in Woodhull, New York. He does not believe hydrofracking will compromise his water quality, although he could not explain Carol's water quality.

"[The] EPA would've shut this whole industry down if this was doing this to the water," Vitale explained.

Carolyn Knapp, however, believes she has an explanation for the compromised water, saying gas companies receive special treatment. "They're exempted from numerous things, from the Safe Drinking Water Act," Carolyn explained. "They're exempted from the Superfund Act. They can come in and make a disaster of this area, leave, and we have to clean and pay for it."

Neil says many of the farmers' problems stem from not getting a proper lawyer or joining a coalition prior to signing a lease. All three farmers admit they have been signing leases with the gas companies for the past forty years. They say that doing so allowed the gas companies to continue receiving subsidies from the government.

Farmers on both sides maintain strong opinions about the controversial drilling process, which has an uncertain future in New York. Governor Cuomo is currently waiting on a report from the Department of Environmental Conservation detailing the process' potential health effects. Once this is completed, Cuomo will decide if hydrofracking will be allowed in New York.

Neil is confident it will be allowed in the state. "This will come someday to New York," he said. "When that's gonna be, that's anybody's guess anymore."

Carol, however, continues to see hydrofracking as something that has significantly compromised her quality of life. "They pretty much have taken our retirement away from us," Carol explained. "They've taken our family. I think we lost it all."